Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Forget Chile, it is time for Startup Italia

First of all, let me say I love Chile. I was in Santiago last year and I put the city on the top of my list, when it comes to places I would live in. However, I am biased. Italy is the country I grew up in, and by all means, it rocks. There is no other place in the world that gets close.

Silicon Valley is full of great talent, but it is the hardest place in the world to start a company (I mean start as in the first six/twelve months, when you just have an idea and nothing else). In the Valley, you can't find talent willing to join you so early, unless they are co-founders. To build a first prototype, you will need a few engineers. Unless you are one, good luck hiring great talent in San Francisco before you actually have something to show (traction or money). They are all busy working at startups with a lot of money to play with. There is a good chance you will be forced to hire someone living far away, and that sucks because the first phase of development is the one where the team needs to be in the same place.

As you might know, years ago I suggested a path to Italian software companies. Get some traction in Italy, the best place in the world to develop software (presentation here, if you are curious), then send the CEO here. Silicon Valley is the best place to grow a software company. If you want to make it big, this is the place to be. Period.

I have done it twice. First with Funambol (we raised a $5M Series A round in 2005, with me in Silicon Valley and the team in Italy) and now with TOK.tv. It works so well, I would do it again over and over.

Years after years, I have seen Italian entrepreneurs try to move here with limited success. Very few made it. The barrier to entry is just too high. It starts with the language, knowing the intricacies of fundraising, the problems with the visa and much more. Maybe, I made it just because I worked here for a few years, before starting a company (or I was just lucky, which is the most likely answer).

So I thought: perhaps we should do the opposite. Send people from Silicon Valley to Italy to start companies. They will come back when ready to grow, with a team of Italian engineers at home. The best of both worlds.

Not with much of my doing, but Italy has just become the best place in the world to start a company. In particular, if you are an entrepreneur coming from abroad. They took the best of Startup Chile and made it even better. Check this slideshare from my friend and congressman Stefano Quintarelli.

You can easily get a visa, some money and the support of the new government to start your company. You will be living in the best place on earth (sorry, Chile), and have access to the best engineers there are (trust me, I have been living in Silicon Valley for 15 years).

Take your bags, leave the Valley for a while, start a company in Italy, then come back and make it big.

It is time for Startup Italia.